I have a confession to make.

I know you won’t expect it. I know it’s not who you think I am. But I have to get this off my chest:

I love Christmas shopping.

Those who know me well often seem surprised when they learn this. Often, someone will say something to the effect of, “Um, aren’t you the guy who calls for the federal detention of people who leave shopping carts loose in a parking lot? Why, pray tell, do you enjoy wading into the most hectic shopping time of the season?”

First off, I love buying gifts for folks. It just makes me happy. But I’ll get to the gifts in a minute. The other reason I love this time of the year – the shopping cart posse comes out in full force.

It is true that I find shopping cart abandonment one of the most abominable sins mankind commits. And when you triple the population of shoppers, you would think the cart violations would ramp up, too. But here’s the crazy thing – perhaps it is the Christmas spirit – the Miracle Wonderful Charlie Brown Rudolph Frosty the Snowman infection that takes over a lot of us. I find that, during the Christmas season, folks tend to want to go out of their way to be a decent member of the tribe. Perhaps it’s a long-standing “Naughty or Nice” issue they’re battling.

That said, I did find a troubling report from a cart warrior’s report from the field, in which he informed me that, at a Toys ‘R’ Us store, someone not only left a cart abandoned, but left it squarely in the middle of an expectant mother parking spot. Because I am in the Christmas spirit, I choose to believe that the cart was left there as a test, and my friend Jeremy passed the test by not only moving the cart but also sharing his outrage, thereby spurring others to either park their carts properly or retrieve the rogue ones they see.

But back to the other reason – I love buying gifts for people. I really do hate shopping, most times of the year. I get cranky, agitated and unpleasant. If I have to go buy pants – my wife will attest to this – it will take about 10 minutes until I say, “You know what size I wear. Can I go watch the big TVs?”

But for some reason, I love my annual sojourn for Christmas gifts. It’s usually two trips. My daughter and I go out for about a two-hour jaunt in which we hit 47 stores in a whirlwind fashion. My daughter stops every two feet and says, “Oooh, this is pretty” or “Oooh, Mom would like this.” Oftentimes, those include things that, when I assess them, are more suited for my daughter than my wife, as the changing tastes of a young girl come out when shopping for her mother. If I pay close attention, I can actually build my daughter’s Christmas list. For example (and you all have to promise not to tell my wife this), when shopping for a present this year, my daughter said my wife really needed a new makeup travel bag. We had this conversation:

ME: She’s already got a makeup bag.

ALLIE: Yeah, but she needs a new makeup bag.

ME: Your mother hardly wears any makeup. I’m not even sure why she needs the one she has.

ALLIE: Daddy, she has a lot of stuff to take on trips.

ME: I’m not sure this is a problem.

ALLIE: But if you get her a new one, she’d really like it. And I’ll take her old one.

My second Christmas shopping trip is by myself, and it usually takes about an hour. I sprint through about 11 stores in the most frenetic pace you could imagine, stopping to find can’t miss, slam dunk items and a few stocking stuffers that have to happen. For the last 15 or so years, my wife has received a lint roller in her stocking. Why? Because for some reason I threw one in a stocking many moons ago, and I’m not going to be the one on the receiving end of the Christmas morning question, “What? No lint roller? Is everything OK?”

So there is still one weekend left before Christmas, and although I am done with my shopping, I may venture out, just to bask in the glow of Christmas awesomeness. I will stroll the aisles, knowing that most of the people there are shopping their hearts out to find that perfect gift for that perfect someone.

And then, when I am done enjoying the spectacle, I’ll head home to enjoy some Christmas cheer. Of course, before I crank up the car, I’ll do a quick check and make sure the carts are in their proper home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama. He can be reached at mwg1234@yahoo.com.